Dear Auntie Seraphic:
I have a dear male friend who is five years my junior, whom I affectionately think of as my little brother. He's a good man, and, being only 19, is rather mature and 'together' for a young man who's only a college freshman. We had breakfast the other day and he confided that he has gotten a reputation around the Catholic student center as a heartbreaker.
I inquired how this could be so, knowing he probably wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose, and he posed a question. "If you want to get to know a girl, just as friends, how do you do it? If we go for coffee or a meal or something, she thinks it's a date. If we spend too much time alone, people think we're together. How do I get to know girls better without actually dating them?"
Part of the unfortunate problem, I think, is that woman aren't often used to true gentlemen treating them as ladies. So when a man, such as my friend, holds doors open for them, lets them go first, offers to help carry things, and other signs of courtesy, they immediately interpret his intentions as romantic rather than polite, because few men have ever acted this way before.
I suggested that, unless he really does intend to date a girl, that he only see her as part of group outings, so no one can make assumptions. He seemed rather disappointed in this advice, and I can't say I blame him; you can't really get to know someone when you're with six other people at a bowling alley or a movie theater. So, dear Seraphic, I pass his quandary on to you. :-)
Dear Older "Sis",
Ah ha ha ha ha ha! That's what I say. I say it roughly and with cynicism. What your little "brother" needs is a deep and prayerful read of my reply to Modest Millie. And if he's cute, so do you. Why have you put this nice, mature, 'together' Catholic man in the "little brother" slot? Five years your junior, indeed! Breakfast, forsooth! What's the story, Morning Glory?
In Grown-up Land, asking a single woman out for a coffee is making a date. Asking a single woman out for a meal is making a date. Asking a single woman out to the movies is a making a date. Asking a single woman to the dance on Friday night is making a date. Date. Date, date, date, date. It's not a marriage proposal. But it's a date.
I assume your little, ahem, "brother" is a hottie, otherwise his date requests would have been swiftly answered with "OMG, just friends, right?" And he is nineteen years old. The happy, halcyon days of the playground are over. No longer can he splash naked in the girl-next-door's paddling pool. No longer can he send innocent valentines to every girl in the class. No longer can he kiss girls at parties with impunity. Childhood is over. It is time for him to grow up and drink the coffee.
Yes, it is nice to be made much of by girls, and pour one's manly hopes and dreams into an appreciative female ear, but that is what really-truly sisters are for, to say nothing of mothers, grandmothers and aunts. Most other girls like to know that there is something in it for them, e.g. courtship. Not all Catholic girls are interested in wasting their leisure time on cute men who just want to be friends. I am most definitely on the side of all the girls in this scenario, including you.
When and where was this magical mystical time and place in which young men were allowed unfettered access to young female friendship, anyway? 19th century Britain? No. 19th century America? No. 21th century India? Definitely not. The West in the 1960s? Yes. And see where that got us.
If your 19 year old hottie wants to get to know nice girls better as friends, he can do it in company like every other generation of respectable men before 1960. He can throw parties in which he invites lots of girls and, being a good host, spends just as much time on each one of them, to make sure each is having a good time. He could start asking two or three girls at a time to dinner or to coffee or even to the dance on Friday night, making it very clear he has asked the other(s) also. He could volunteer for committees heavily dominated by women. He could even squish maidenly egos left and right by ending every single social invitation with the phrase "just as friends, I mean?"
Or he can keep on asking girls out for dates, not ask them out again, and develop his bad heartbreaker reputation, about which he will complain to you at breakfast while being mistaken by other men, handsome men in their twenties, for your boyfriend.
Incidentally, I see that not only are you on this man's side against your fellow women, you assume that our heads are turned by door-openers because most other men behave like baboons. Alas.
But I will go easy on you this time because you have wisely turned to me, young padawan. You show knowledge, insight and auntie-potential. To deepen your wisdom, I recommend a girls-only slumber party, complete with pedicures and group viewing of Moonstruck.
Update (March 8): It just occured to me that a man's having a heartbreaker reputation (if undeserved) in Catholic circles is not necessarily a bad thing. I was warned (by a Discerner) that B.A. was a heartbreaker at whom women threw themselves, and of course my curiosity was aroused. I wanted to see this heartbreaker for myself. And if he thought I was going to throw myself at him, he had a another think coming! Humph, humph! The rest is history.